This adventure down the Rhine offered more than just sightseeing

Rhine tour - Amsterdam

This Architectural Adventures tour down the Rhine stopped in Amsterdam, where visitors could take in the famous canals.

Find out how an Architectural Adventures tour through Germany, France, and the Netherlands impacted a young architect.

While cruising along the beautiful Rhine through Germany, France, and the Netherlands with Architectural Adventures, Megan Kaufmann, AIA, not only gained an in-depth understanding of the culture and vernacular architecture of the destinations but created long-lasting connections with the other architects.

Kaufmann, 30, is a native of New Jersey and the founder of KC Studio in Raleigh, North Carolina. KC Studio is a full-service, woman-owned architecture firm that specializes in healthcare and commercial projects. The firm was built on strong partnerships and they participate in every step of the design process, from planning to punch walks. They embrace a virtual work environment and emphasize work-life balance, allowing employees to deliver exceptional client services while enjoying what matters most to them.

Before founding the firm, she worked at several others in Boston, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, where her foundation of strong client relationships and focus on critical design and team building began. Kaufmann is involved in various community outreach organizations, including volunteering for the ACE Mentor Program where she teaches high school students who are interested in architecture, construction, or engineering.

Impacts from the trip

A sizable portion of Kaufmann’s business revolves around adaptive reuse, and the Rhine tour provided numerous international examples of historical preservation and reuse projects. Being in a small-group setting and having local guides and experts providing “inside scoops” about the architecture and cities added a level of in-depth information and learning opportunities to the trip. The most impactful topic she learned about regarded the destruction and reconstruction that stemmed from World War II.

“It was interesting to see places like Amsterdam, which was largely saved from bombing, versus Cologne, which was almost entirely destroyed,” she says. “It was a somber experience, and it shed light on ways to rebuild cities while honoring the local culture and victims of an atrocious act.”

A beautiful example of traditional half-timbered houses in the town of Riquewihr, located in the Alsace wine region.

She recalls learning how, in Frankfurt, the historical city center reclaimed an important part of its urban history by rebuilding the medieval timber-framed buildings in what is called the “New Old Town.” In doing so, the city center was strengthened, and its residents reclaimed their culture.

In addition to earning continuing education credits while exploring the world and learning about the destinations, Kaufmann was able to curate new lasting connections with the other members on the tour. One of her favorite memories from the cruise was one afternoon when the Architectural Adventures group gathered on the deck of the boat for a small reception.

“We sat in a circle and each shared a little bit about ourselves and the work we do,” she says. “While I am early in my career, others were mid-career and some were retired. Gathering together and toasting to each other was a great way to kick off the cruise. In that moment, I knew I’d gained new friends and mentors, felt the support of everyone there, and was happy to share the experience with others who were passionate about architecture and travel.”

Along the Rhine River highlights

Kaufmann and the rest of the travelers with Architectural Adventures were able to experience the architecture of Germany, France, and the Netherlands by cruising in a relaxed setting along the Rhine river, including:

  • The majestic 13th-century Gothic cathedral of Cologne;
  • The Notre Dame Cathedral and the Petite France area with its half-timbered buildings;
  • Frankfurt and its modern and historic architecture, from the historical Römerberg area to the museums built in the 1980s, and the high-rise buildings on the north side of the Main River;
  • A scenic canal cruise through Amsterdam, the city known as the “Venice of the North”

Kaufmann noted that the different styles of architecture and ways of building around the world are truly fascinating, and most of the inspirations for her own designs come from her travels.

“I came home from my excursion with a new appreciation for city planning and historical preservation,” she says. “I would recommend this trip to everyone.”

About Architectural Adventures

Architectural Adventures is the official travel program of The American Institute of Architects, specializing in the exploration and appreciation of the world’s architecture. Experts lead immersive small group tours that go well beyond simple sightseeing, giving travelers distinctive and exclusive opportunities to engage with the past, present, and future of building and design in the earth’s great sites and cities. Offering world-class experiences in destinations across the globe, Architectural Adventures is the premier travel provider for architecture enthusiasts and intellectually curious travelers alike. For more details on tour destinations and new trip announcements, visit architecturaladventures.org and sign up for the Architectural Adventures mailing list.

Image credits

Rhine tour - Amsterdam

Megan Kaufmann, AIA

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